I blog about religious issues, so it might seem counter-intuitive to post something against religion. But no matter what good comes from religious people, and no matter how much I think about God-related stuff, I’ve spent most of my adult life thinking Blaise Pascal was right to say much strongly motivated evil stems from religious convictions. (Pascal had more depth, breadth, and nuance in his thinking than his famous Wager, taken by itself, might suggest.)
In our time, Bob Dylan seems to have the same idea as Pascal:
“Religion is a dirty word. It doesn’t mean anything. Coca-Cola is a religion. Oil and steel are a religion. In the name of religion, people have been raped, killed, and defiled. Today’s religion is tomorrow’s bondage,” Dylan once said, as quoted in Dylan: The Biography by Dennis McDougal.
h/t to J.D. Landis
Please also see Bob Dylan on Morality.
Portrait of Pascal (Photo: Wikipedia)
“The two faculties which should help people be wise and perceptive, the senses and reason, are engaged in a constant battle, in which one tries to deceive the other. The senses trick reason by only showing the outward appearance of things, rather than their inner reality. And this deception is worsened when the emotions disturb the senses.” — Blaise Pascal, Penseés (No. 45)
A healthy understanding of the limits of knowledge should not be a license to ignore or degrade knowledge.
When Blaise Pascal said, “Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it,” he said so with strong, well-demonstrated successes in his appropriation of reason. In other words, he successfully used and synthesized knowledge.
From Blaise Pascal‘s posthumous collection, Pensees:
“The last thing one discovers in writing a book is what to put first.”
“When one finds a natural style, one is amazed and delighted, for where one expected to see an author, one discovers a man.”
Apply this when trying to write about other people, real or fictitious: “The more intelligence one has the more people one finds original. Commonplace people see no difference between men.”
I found this enormously helpful:
“According to the biblical traditions, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. According to the early Greek philosophers, all knowledge is the fruit of wonder. Do we have to choose between Jerusalem and Athens? Must we decide between the church and the laboratory? Are the sciences and the humanities two different cultures, or two different windows to reality?
“When Galileo wanted to show Jupiter’s moons to his theological opponents, they refused to look through his telescope. They believed — as Berthold Brecht put it — that ‘truth is not to be found in nature, but only in the interpretation of texts.’ A classical definition of this separation of science and theology was given by Pascal: ‘If we perceive this distinction clearly, we shall lament the blindness of those who only allow the validity of tradition in physics instead of reason and experiment; we shall be horrified at the error of those who in theology put the arguments of reason in place of the tradition of Scripture and the Fathers.’ But why does astonishment over the world not lead us to the fear of the God, and the fear of God not to astonisnment over the world?”
— Jurgen Moltmann, in “Science and Wisdom,” Theology Today, July 2001
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” — Blaise Pascal, quoted by Daniel Taylor in The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment